By Kaelanne Jordan
As religious leaders joined the nation in continuing the “vigil” that began 30 years ago, Her Excellency President Paula-Mae Weekes said it is “quite obvious” that the wounds of July 27, 1990 have not begun to heal; some of them have not even grown a scab.
“Our democracy still feels vulnerable. Many traumatised victims have not returned to their former selves. And the ripple effects of those five awful days keep rearing their ugly heads,” the president said at the National Day of Prayer, Sunday, August 2.
The venue was the St Patrick’s RC Church, Maraval Road, Newtown.
President Weekes shared that her aunt, a nun at the Anglican Church’s Community of the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford, England, relayed that the Convent had received many requests for prayer for Trinidad and Tobago during the coup. After her aunt’s death in 2016, President Weekes found herself continually praying for the country.
Sunday’s National Day of Prayer, she said, is just one occasion for which fervent intercession is necessary in the nation’s affairs.
“We gather to pray for healing and understanding and to thank God for democracy and the privilege to cast our ballot freely. We give thanks that those who sought to rob us of this opportunity were ultimately unsuccessful,” President Weekes said.
Quoting scripture, she said that Christians are told in the Epistle of James that faith without works is dead. And that teaching, she believed “runs through many religions”.
She asserted that the hope for a better Trinidad and Tobago is not exclusive to a people of faith. “Many who don’t pray and don’t believe in the power of prayer also desire a brighter future.”
She hoped that all present and those who joined remotely are committed to continuing prayers beyond Sunday’s gathering.
Referencing the day’s gospel reading from Matthew (14:13–21), Archbishop Jason Gordon said that the reading recognises a delicate balance between state and religion and the present “tension everywhere”.
Democracy, he said, “is a very fragile thing and the fragility of democracy is why we come to pray.” It “needs to be cherished, preserved, and protected.”
The reading gave insight because the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowds away, “…you see they had enough food for themselves…but not enough to feed the crowd. And so, they were more interested in themselves being fed than in the care of the crowd. And this is the second real challenge to democracy.”
He quoted VS Naipaul’s The Middle Passage where Naipaul referred to T&T as a ‘picaroon’ society—a people who are more interested in street hustling than in the long-term development of a nation.
“And that’s the challenge that we still face. When we want to preserve ourselves and not everyone else: where we don’t want to work for the common good; when we choose we don’t want to wear a mask in public; and we don’t want to preserve the health of others, or we want to destroy democracy …we are acting like the disciples were acting, but thank God Jesus acted differently because He took two loaves and a few fish, and with those loaves and fish, He fed the multitude.”
He thus demonstrated that God’s economy is an economy of abundance.
The Archbishop prayed that given the little loaves and fish we carry; God will do something special with the nation and its people.
In giving brief remarks, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said it seemed a long time ago when the religious leaders gathered at the chapel at his residence as they spoke outwards to the nation. At that time [March 29], he said, the country was beginning to face challenges and they spoke of a very uncertain future.
“But we spoke not without faith, but with all hope and confidence that we will, with God’s grace and blessings be able to survive. As we gathered to pray then, we gather now,” he said.
The Prime Minister reflected on Jeremiah 25:1–9, as he did on the last occasion.
The National Day of Prayer included prayers from various religious leaders of the country. Also in attendance were Chief Justice Ivor Archie; Ministers of government; government and opposition senators; and representatives of city corporations and boroughs.